Thursday, May 7, 2009

"Before There was a Rich Hill"

Tonights blog came directly from Vol.3, Number 12 from the December 6, 1979 Wagon Wheels Insert of the Rich Hill Mining Review. The article "Before There Was A Rich Hill" was written by the late Marjorie McGennis formerly of Rich Hill Missouri.

With Rich Hill's Centennial coming up soon, I have had occasion to look into the early history of our area. I'm sure you know who was here before we were, or any of our ancestors. Yes, it was the Indians, but we don't know how long they had been here. In 1673 when Father Marquette explored the Mississippi and its tributaries, he made a map showing this to be Osage territory. It remained so designated until 1825 when the U.S. Government made a treaty with the Osage Indians and moved them farther west into Kansas Territory.
Perhaps the earliest white men to make regular visits to this area were the French Canadian trappers and hunters, who traded with the Indians, buying furs from them. Of course, early traveling was done on the rivers, and the Indians themselves chose sites nearby streams for their villages. A few years ago an archeologicol team uncovered one of those settlements near the Marmaton River south of Rich Hill. There are circles of Indian mounds on several farms around here where it is supposed they pitched their tepees. Also collectons of arrowheads and other artifacts have been found.
We also learn something about the Osages from accounts left by those who tried so hard to bring the gospel to them. I am speaking of the men and women who founded Harmony Mission in 1821. The Osages, hearing that Union Mission had been founded in Arkansas Territory the year before, went to Washington to ask that they too have a similar mission. As a result of this the United Foreign Missionary Society assembled a party of ten men and their families and three single women to make up the Mission family.
They left Pittsburg, Pa. on April 10, 1821 on Keel boats to make their way down the Ohio River, stopping off at various places to get provisions and visit fellow Christians. When they reached the Mississippi, the journey became much more dangerous, with the river at flood stage. Finally reaching the Missouri River, they went upstream a short way to St. Charles and on June 9th presented their official papers to Governor McNair.

After poling up the Missouri to the Osage, it was August 2nd before they finally stopped at the Government Trading Post near what is now Papinville. They lived in tents for a while, until, they could, find the proper- site for the Mission. They chose a spot about one and a half miles north west of what is now Papinville on the north bank of the Marias Des , Cygnes river. It was a mile above a fine mill seat and the U.S. trading house. Eventually they erected 10 cabins, a large main building, a schoolhouse. blacksmith shop and store­house. Today all that marks the site is a small sandstone marker with the initials D.A.P. scratched on it, and perhaps
some depressions in the earth that mark the last resting place of some of these brave souls.
The Missionaries were anxious to convert the Osages to Christianity, but found that they could not conceive of an invisible God. for they worshipped the things they saw in Nature, the sun and moon, perhaps the lightning. It was very hard to convey the message because of language difficulties, but there was at the Government Post a good interpreter, William Sherley Williams, known as the "Mountain Man." He had first come preaching to the Indians, but later married an Indian woman and lived as one of them. He was able to help the Missionaries translate a small portion of the scriptures for their use.

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